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Almost 400 wounded in Lebanon clashes

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Almost 400 people were wounded Saturday during running battles between anti-government protesters and Lebanese security forces in the capital Beirut, rescuers said.


It was the heaviest toll since the protests erupted three months ago, with the Red Cross and Civil Defense saying 377 people at least were rushed to hospital or treated at the scene.


The latest clashes come after a cooling of tensions in the Lebanese capital, after largely peaceful protests which broke out across the country in October over the state of the economy turned increasingly violent, but people have filled the streets again this week.


They are furious at a ruling elite that has steered the country toward its worst economic crisis in decades.


Police wielding batons and firing tear gas have wounded dozens of people at protests in recent days. Anger at the banks — which have curbed people’s access to their savings — started to boil over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday night.


Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said on Saturday that police in Beirut were being “violently and directly” confronted at one of the entrances to the parliament. In a tweet, it called on people to leave the area for their own safety.


Witnesses said they saw young men hurling stones and flower pots toward riot police, while protesters tried to push through an entrance to a heavily barricaded district of central Beirut, which includes the parliament.


Hundreds of protesters marched and chanted against in the political class in other parts of the capital. A large banner at one of the rallies read: “If the people go hungry, they will eat their rulers.”


The unrest, which stemmed from anger at corruption and the rising cost of living, forced Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign in October. Feuding politicians have since failed to agree a new cabinet or rescue plan.


The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, while dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has collapsed.

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